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WorldTour Wrap: Landa the lost and the Tour de France’s best fans

A closer look at what you might have missed during the second week of the Tour de France

Another week in the WorldTour, another week completely dominated by the Tour de France. Things got properly lumpy this week, with the race heading into the Pyrenees, before crossing the decidedly unflat middle part of France in an Alps-ward direction.

All hell broke loose in the GC, with five riders in with a reasonable shout of taking the yellow jersey on any given day. And, just like always, la Grand Boucle threw up plenty of curveballs along the way.

HighLanda, FreeLanda, Landa the Lost – take your pick…

Mikel Landa, the man who won the Giro d’Italia King of the Mountains jersey, and looked like he was out for a Sunday morning spin while doing so, has brought that same impressive insouciance to the Tour de France.

The Basque rider, who sits sixth on GC going into the rest day, is here to do a job for Chris Froome by guiding him through the mountains, just like Team Sky super-domestiques Wout Poels and Richie Porte before him.

Poels carried out his job like the terminator, never more than a few metres from Froome’s front wheel. Porte, samesies.

Mikel Landa, sans Chris Froome, on the attack (pic – Alex Whitehead/SWpix.com)

But the Landabot has malfunctioned. Mikel is not an unquestioning team man like Poels and Porte. The loyalty chip in Robo-Landa’s cerebral cortex has malfunctioned. A small but influential portion of his brain knows he could win this race himself, and wants to. And the results have been amazing to see.

It all started on Thursday when Chris Froome cracked on the Peyresourde. Landa looked like he dropped, or at the very least forgot about, Froome.

And all the while this was happening Landa actually looked bored. Froome lost the yellow jersey and Landa got a ticking off from DS Nicolas Portal.

Here’s the video, see if you can spot the point Landa says the Basque equivalent of ‘Awwwwwww, Mom!’

Admonished for leaving his team leader the day before, what did Landa do on Friday? He went in the goddarn break with Alberto Contador. Of course he did.

At one stage the duo were two minutes up the road, putting Landa close to the virtual yellow jersey.

Landa is conflicted. He knows the atmosphere aboard the bus will be soured if he cracks on to win the race, and yet it is within reach. And he’s got one of the most attacking bike racers in the world with him saying weird Spanish stuff like ‘Let’s pull until we’re dead’.

Landa cooled it a little on Saturday, but yesterday was another GC ding dong and sho’nuff he was up the front again – at one stage he had to come back and collect a dropped Froome and pace him back on.

After this gargantuan effort, Landa just span back up to the front and sat himself on the front with a wryly amused look as if to say, “Sorry about that, lads, now where were we?” Before opening up a can of hurt on them all.

Everyone and their mothers can see that Landa is the strongest rider in this Tour and should be set free to soar like an eagle to victory. There’s even a Spanish rap called FreeLanda, guys. I don’t know what else to say…

 

Watching the watchers

Let’s be real here, for a moment. While the Tour de France 2017 has been largely fascinating, there have been what you’d reasonably call some ‘slow moments’ here and there.

Very, very, very long transition stages do not make for incredible racing – especially not when there’s only two B-team riders in the breakaway. In these instances, we’re often grateful to the spectators on the side of the road for enlivening proceedings, bringing some much-needed weirdness to the whole thing as the peloton trundles on.

We decided to rate some of the spectators we saw along the route in week 1. We scored them on three factors; effort made, level of weirdness, relevance to Tour de France. This last one is scored on a reverse sliding scale, so the more relevant to bike racing it is, the less points we’re giving it.

First up, the one-man band…

I’m going right out on a limb and giving this guy a nine straight away. As far as I can discern, there is no connection whatsoever to the sport of cycling, plus he’s actually hulked an entire band up the hill with him, just to play for a sum total of 11 seconds as the peloton passes by.

And full points for capturing that unmistakeable French weirdness by donning an orange jester hat and hi-viz jacket. A tough act to follow.

Now, the saddest Aussie in France…

Now, lets put this into context for a moment. Spotted on stage 11, three days after Richie Porte crashed out of the Tour, this dejected looking dude has gone to some serious levels of effort to show his support for Aussie riders in the race – which, y’know, was mainly Richie.

Sure, the likes of Jay McCarthy and Adam Hansen are still here, but many were saying this was Porte’s best chance to win the Tour (and possibly would be his best chance ever) – so it has to go down as a bit of a disappointment for Australian bike fans. Which would explain the dude’s rather downtrodden body language.

We’ll chuck him max points for effort, given he literally travelled to the other side of the globe, but very low scores on weirdness and it’s all far too relevant, if a little bit late. At the very least put a mankini on, fella. Overall, six points.

And finally, a classic for the ages, naked man in promotional casquette…

Mercifully, no moving images of this one, but here’s a streaker from yesterday’s stage bothering Bauke Mollema (or perhaps inspiring him onwards) as the Dutchman headed for his solo stage victory.

Not much effort made here, given that putting on clothes technically requires effort. Could also score higher on weirdness if there was some sort of mutation or birth defect visible, a third nipple on the back or hand coming out of the shoulder. Can’t fault the chap on relevance though – his asscrack has absolutely nothing to do with bicycle racing.

Five out of ten. Docked one point for upsetting Simon Geschke.

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